Tories facing carnage in English local elections, poll seen as Brexit barometer

Tories facing carnage in English local elections, poll seen as Brexit barometer
Voters across 156 local government authorities in England have been voting in local elections that are seen as a barometer of support for UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government.

Some 4,400 council seats are up for grabs. The elections will not affect seats in parliament, the Tories’ slim majority there, or May’s position as head of government; but the predicted carnage for Tory council hopefuls could cause further division within the Conservative Party itself.

In London, where 40 percent of seats are being contested, forecasts predict a major swing to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. A Survation poll published on the day of the vote put Corbyn’s party 20 points ahead of the Conservatives. Voters are believed to be frustrated by austerity in their daily lives, as well as broader issues such the rise of violent crime, and Brexit.

Gains & Pains

One such borough that could swing to Labour is Kensington & Chelsea, whose Conservative-led council oversaw the disastrous refurbishments that led to the fire at Grenfell Tower last June, and the council has come under severe criticism by survivors and citizens over their handling of the disaster.

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Other blue boroughs such as Westminster and Wandsworth, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Brexit referendum, may also swing away from the Conservatives to parties touting a softer Brexit line. If this occurs, it would mark a very bad day for Theresa May’s party.

But not everyone in the capital will go crazy for the party of Corbyn. Labour’s ongoing row over anti-Semitism may see the borough of Barnet, which has a substantial Jewish population, slipping from turning red for the first time.

Outside of the capital, Labour are looking to deepen the red in the near one-party state of Manchester. Even more affluent suburbs of the city like Trafford could join the rest of the city by turning to Labour.

But Labour doesn’t have it all their own way. Brexit-voting boroughs in the Midlands, such as Walsall, which returned a Conservative MP for the first time since 1976 in last year’s snap general election is likely to go Tory. Dudley, where an imploding UKIP currently has five seats, could prove ample feeding for both parties to boost their council numbers.

Trial and Error

Another feature of this round of elections are trials in several areas which has seen voters asked for identification prior to voting. Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking are all taking part in the scheme and with just several hours to go before polls close, early indications show that all is not going according to plan.

One issue is that each town has different rules for what ID is acceptable – Swindon, for example, accepts a polling card, passport, photographic driving license, biometric immigration document, or a photo ID card issued in the EEA; while Bromley also accepts a 60+ Oyster Card, Freedom Pass or any PASS ID card – many voters have been turned away as a result. It’s reported that dozens of potential voters have already been prevented from casting their ballots.

The scheme had been already criticized by the Electoral Reform Society, which said the measures would affect not only the elderly, but homeless, disabled, young people and people from ethnic backgrounds.

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